Global Citizen CorpsNearly 90% of young individuals reside in underdeveloped nations and in developed countries, over half of them do not have jobs, go to school or have formal training. The lack of financial opportunities leads adolescents to join terrorist groups to earn a basic income and to gain a sense of identity. To combat the problem, Mercy Corps created a program called The Global Citizen Corps (GCC) to reduce participation in terrorist groups and to influence adolescents to make positive changes in the lives of adolescents.

Mercy Corps’s Global Citizen Corps (GCC) Program

Mercy Corps came to fruition in 1979 and assists foreign countries going through difficult times, such as war, natural disasters, economic crisis and political turmoil. Through the establishment of the GCC program in 2003, the organization focuses on helping young individuals improve their future and communities.

First, the program allows adolescents from the United States to chat online with other young individuals residing in the Middle East. With the use of narratives, conversations and volunteer work, the American youth educate foreign counterparts about the ability to seek data, how to speak up, the skills needed to be a leader and what it takes to make a difference in communities. Furthermore, the program works with each country’s government, local businesses and third sector to help the youth find employment. The GCC examines every procedure and method created by each of these institutions to ensure fairness for all citizens. In particular, the GCC helps advocate for better various projects for adolescent job search.

The GCC also provides basic resources and a safe space for young people who do not own a residence. The program assists young individuals to feel secure in any environment by introducing therapy and treatment. The program meets the emotional and physical needs of adolescents to prevent youth participation in terrorist groups. Lastly, the GCC gathers thousands of adolescents from all over the globe to participate in the program’s leadership course. The course allows young individuals from around the world to establish relationships, come to a mutual understanding about how to improve environments and inspire other adolescents to engage in community service.

GCC’s Impact

Since the program’s inception, GCC taught 15,000 young individuals about occupational skills, financial knowledge, job searching and interpersonal competence in 2009. Additionally, approximately 60,000 adolescents participated in community service, ranging from neighborhood gatherings to raising awareness for important issues in 2009. The GCC program caught the attention of nearly 12 million young citizens through social media and other news outlets in the same year.

Hope for the Future

All in all, the Mercy Corps’ GCC program aids in lowering youth participation in terrorist groups by creating online chat forums, advocating for fair institutional rules and practices, attending to adolescent basic needs and teaching leadership classes. The wide range of information and opportunities drive young individuals to advocate for positive change in youth life and nearby communities. When the youth put time and attention toward productive activities, joining a terrorist group appears unappealing. As the Global Citizen Corps program reaches more young citizens living in war-torn countries, the decline of terrorism looks achievable.

– Samantha Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Indonesian Youth Programs
Around 85 million children live in Indonesia, making up one-third of the country’s population. Children are necessary for their country’s future, and the education and opportunities they receive are what allow them to have that impact. That is why it is important for children to have programs and organizations that give them more opportunities and allows them to realize their full potential. Several Indonesian youth programs provide these opportunities to children in Indonesia. The Indonesia Youth Foundation, Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking (IYOIN) and Indonesian Youth Diplomacy are prime examples of Indonesian youth programs that aid children in education, provide resources and give them outlets to channel their passions.

Indonesia Youth Foundation

The Indonesia Youth Foundation began on July 23, 2020, as a non-governmental organization. Its objectives include connecting the children of Indonesia and other global youth through a variety of youth activities, offering general knowledge about the country and taking part in world advancement and the development of youth.

One can track the organization’s Youth Empowerment program through a series of articles on the organization’s official website, each entry providing tips on subjects such as boosting productivity and caring for mental health. Also featured is information on education and tourism to provide a better understanding of Indonesia.

Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking

Indonesian youths created IYOIN in 2015. Since then, the self-started Indonesian youth program has spread across several different regions in Indonesia, with 18 local chapters.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a medium for children in Indonesia to congregate, share and work together to realize their values for the country. The opportunities that this program provides also aim to improve the Indonesian youths’ education and to ensure that the youth will have the qualifications to tackle their futures successfully.

IYOIN became a United Nations SDSN Youth Member in 2017, a program that works to guarantee education that is inclusive and equal for all, in addition to encouraging learning opportunities. IYOIN joined this program because these goals align with its own mission.

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy is a nonprofit Indonesian youth program that promotes and provides international exposure and empowers the next generation of Indonesian leaders. Known initially as G20 Youth Indonesia, efforts to form the organization began in 2010. This process continued in 2011 when the Indonesian Organizing Committee emerged to recruit Indonesian youth interested in contributing to the annual G20 Youth Summit. Recognizing the necessity of involving Indonesian youth in diplomacy beyond what the G20 program provides, the organization updated in 2013. Now known as the Indonesian Youth Diplomacy, it sends Indonesia’s promising young leaders to represent the country in international forums to raise awareness of diplomacy.

Youth programs can offer multiple benefits to children. They provide youth with quality education, a chance to involve themselves in their community and learn essential life skills and create a healthy social environment. All three of the organizations give these opportunities to the children of Indonesia. These Indonesian youth programs are crucial to allow children to spread their wings and learn since the youth are the backbone of their country.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Improving Life in El Salvador
Why would a parent ever voluntarily give up their child? In El Salvador, perilous circumstances pressure some parents to do just that for the sake of the child. Other children find themselves in orphanages because of an abusive or impoverished family. Amid economic malaise and violence, NGO Sus Hijos is improving life in El Salvador by helping Salvadoran youth find hope.

Poverty in El Salvador

In the United States, the poverty line is around $26,000 for a family of four. The same family of four in El Salvador would be making around $8,000 according to the World Bank. That is $5.50 per person daily. In 2017, the poverty rate among Salvadorans was 29%, with 8.5% of Salvadorans surviving in extreme poverty. If one compares this to 2007, these statistics are a win: that year, 39% lived in poverty and 15% in extreme poverty.

Still, the current situation presents a challenge to El Salvador’s government, other countries and private organizations as they try to reduce the poverty rate. El Salvador’s economy has grown slowly since 2000, at an average of 2.3% GDP annually, but the World Bank predicts COVID-19 will contribute to a -4.3% growth rate in 2020. Even if 2021 brings an economic rebound, growth will have stagnated and recovery will be arduous absent additional action. Gangs and corruption both present endemic barriers to anti-poverty reform. In fact, gangs have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic, as police have split their focus between law enforcement and containing the virus.

National efforts to fight corruption and violence can do good if implemented correctly but small-scale efforts should accompany them. These on-the-ground efforts can attain acceptance from the community, and help construct a bottom-up fight against poverty. One such charitable organization improving life in El Salvador is Sus Hijos.

Sus Hijos

Sus Hijos (His Children) is a faith-based NGO that has been serving in El Salvador since 2008. Its mission has expanded as its support has grown, and it now pursues a variety of poverty-reducing initiatives, such as a community feeding program, a home construction campaign and culinary and cosmetics training programs. It also uses its transition program to help Salvadoran youth stay out of gang violence and off the streets.

The Borgen Project interviewed Dave Sheppard about his work with Sus Hijos, where he served as the transition program director for more than three years, between 2013 and 2016. As the director, he helped 38 young adults through the program, 20 of whom successfully completed the two-year transition. He also observed the sights and way of life around him, in a country that hopelessness often plagues.

Transitioning from Tragedy

The situation Salvadoran youth face is especially saddening. In 2010, parents abandoned 66% of children, often because their parents were simply too poor to care for them. Abandonment is still high today, and for many, the orphanage is safer than home.

Gang violence contributes to this problem. Gangs in El Salvador may outnumber the security forces, and operate by dealing drugs, extorting business owners and human trafficking. As they often control entire neighborhoods, dividing San Salvador into regions of influence, gangsters frequently impress children as young as 10 into their network. Those who do not join experience threats, harassment and assault. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that many families willingly turn their children over to the government so that they can escape gang influence and danger.

Once children turn 18, however, they are no longer eligible to live in government care. As a result, they go back to their families as government employees cannot legally leave them on the street. With unstable family situations, many of these young adults end up on the street or in gangs.

This is where Sus Hijos and other charities step in. It picks up the children on their 18th birthdays and offers them a room, food and support for up to two years. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that Sus Hijos’ transition program targets “the worst of the worst cases” to help—often those who experienced sexual abuse as children or had to work for long hours in sugarcane fields.

Transitioning to Hope

Sus Hijos’ transition program aims to provide young adults with support while fostering work ethic and faith-based values. To enter the program, the children must agree to avoid drugs and alcohol and follow other rules that help promote their personal growth. They also had to pay $1 a day in rent—money that they would receive as a gift from Sus Hijos once they left or completed the program, Sheppard said.

While in the program, the young adults also continued their education, completed chores and worked a job to make money. A ninth-grade education is a requirement to work at certain food establishments, like McDonald’s or Super Selectos. Most children complete only a sixth-grade education in El Salvador, so moving through additional grades can translate into greater pay. Sus Hijos’ training programs in its restaurant and salon also offers the young adults real-world job skills.

 In his role as director, Sheppard purchased a bus to ferry the youth between the residence and their jobs. He said that the gangs occasionally harassed him on his routes, but such harassment became “very, very rare” once they discovered who he was. “Once they knew who I was, they would leave me alone,” he stated.

Transitioning to Success

Sheppard told The Borgen Project about two individuals whose success was above average. The first was a young woman in government care through most of her teens due to domestic abuse. She completed Sus Hijos’ two-year program and graduated high school, which ends after 11th grade in El Salvador. Unlike many Salvadorans, she managed to get into a college and complete her associate’s degree. The college was the product of a U.S. doctor who had repaired a derelict hospital. The college paid full tuition while Sus Hijos and others helped out with living costs. Sheppard keeps in touch with the young lady, who now works at a call center where she makes about $600 per month.

The other success story Sheppard mentioned was of a young man whose parents had been killed when he was only four months old. He lived in a government facility until 18, at which point he entered the Sus Hijos program. He completed his seventh, eighth and ninth-grade education while at Sus Hijos, and then left the program to work at a local grocer, where he still has employment.

Even though Sheppard’s volunteer work ended in 2016, he keeps in touch with several of the youth from the program and its administrators. Today, the transition house is assisting nine kids through the program and Sus Hijos is continuing its other works. Its contributions are part of a small-scale, non-governmental initiative with a focus on improving life in El Salvador. If Sus Hijos’ efforts are a barometer of success, the country is bound to continue improving.

Jonathan Helton
Photo: Flickr

Support the Keeping Girls in School
Congresswoman Jeanne Shaheen first introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act. The bill claims to “support empowerment, economic security, and educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world.” Specifically, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations will both work and engage in the implementation of providing opportunities for adolescent girls to obtain a secondary education. This is why support for the Keeping Girls in School Act is so crucial.

Assistance Needed

Congress will also need the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in managing and assisting international matters, such as providing global security for adolescent girls in vulnerable countries. Every five years, these federal committees will meet to monitor the progress of the bill and provide input on the upcoming protocols in improving the status of the situation.

As for quantitative costs, to support the Keeping Girls in School Act requires a large financial budget to be most effective in serving those countries at-risk. Cost estimates are about $340 billion, which is a substantial amount in providing lower-income countries access to secondary education, primarily for younger girls. However, with the economic benefits of this bill, it will prove to be a fulfilling investment.

The Problem At Hand

Every year, more than 130 million girls go unenrolled in school. The U.N. predicts that this rate will increase by up to 150 million girls by 2030. For example, in Yemen, 66% of women are illiterate. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls complete secondary school.

One factor is how many girls enter into child marriages and are not able to obtain an education. In fact, in Ethiopia, 40% of girls are likely to marry under the age of 18. Similarly, in Bangladesh, at least 42% of girls marry younger than age 18 and 22% marry younger than age 15.

Many other external factors contribute to this global crisis. For example, girls with disabilities are less likely to enroll in school and only 1% of girls from the disabled community are literate.

Infections have also proven to hinder access to secondary education for girls under the age of 18. Especially through child marriage, girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. More than 380,000 girls, primarily from Africa, contract HIV or develop AIDS every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 80% of HIV victims among adolescents are girls. A Harvard study noted that if an extra year of secondary education was available for adolescent girls, the risk of contracting HIV would decrease by 12%.

The Economic Benefits

Although it is a large investment, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. For example, if every girl attends school for 12 years, free of cost, estimates have determined that it will generate between $15 trillion to $30 trillion globally by 2030. Moreover, each year a girl attends school, the government saves approximately 5% of its educational budget. When girls have an educational background, they are more likely to obtain jobs and careers and thus, stimulate the economy.

What Now?

It is imperative to lobby support from local, congressional leaders to support the Keeping Girls in School Act, as it can help millions of girls obtain an education. Furthermore, the bill will substantially stimulate the economy in the future. A quick method to accumulate support is to email local representatives about endorsing the bill. With this template by The Borgen Project, emailing local congressional leaders will take less than one minute and benefit more than 130 million girls that do not have access to secondary education.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in YemenYemen is currently undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. In recent years, the nation’s warring conflicts have badly affected girls’ education. The year 2020, however, is looking more optimistic for the nation’s future. Change is on the horizon with peace talks in session and a vote passing in congress to end military involvement in the war. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

  1. Girls’ education in Yemen is in dire need of support. Seventy-six percent of internally displaced persons in Yemen are women and children, many of whom lack basic medical care, economic opportunity and access to education. Yemen’s ongoing civil war has worsened pre-existing living conditions for girls and women in the country. Educational opportunities for girls are also at risk of disappearing from the continued conflict in the region.
  2. Conditional cash transfer programs have enabled poorer families to send their daughters to school. From 2004 to 2012, the Yemeni government collaborated with other organizations to give stipends to girl students in grades four to nine, under the conditions that they maintain a school attendance of 80 percent and receive passing grades. The result of the monetary aid showed a shift in the cultural norms of the recipient communities. Adults began to change their perspectives on girls’ education and allowed more girls and women to attend school. The program has helped enroll over 39,000 girl students into primary education.
  3. In 2007, The World Bank organization implemented a rural female teacher contracting program effectively training 550 new teachers, with 525 going on to receive certification. Providing girls with access to trained female teachers greatly increases the chances of classroom retention and enrollment in the rural regions of the state, according to World Bank education specialist Tomoni Miyajima.
  4. More than two-thirds of girls marry before they turn 18. Families cope with economic hardships by selling their daughters into marriage. Early marriage has crippled girls’ education in Yemen. Instead of pursuing studies, girls take on household roles and often become victims of abuse by their husbands.
  5. In 2018, a Yemeni teacher opened his private home to over 700 students as a primary school. In the war-torn city of Taiz, both boys and girls can attend classes that Adel al-Shorbagy teaches free of charge. Most schools in the city are private and cost up to 100,000 Yemeni riyals a year to attend.
  6. Many private elementary and secondary schools teach the Chinese language to Yemeni girl students. Private school teachers believe Chinese is the language of the future, with increasing technological, scientific and industrial development taking place in China. Yemeni teachers and students aspire to become part of China’s growing economy.
  7. In 2019, UNICEF started to pay more than 136,000 teachers who had not received salaries in over two years. The program offered the equivalent payment of $50 a month to school teachers and staff to help address the low attendance rates of students in the country.
  8. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has set target goals to improve conditions for girls’ education in Yemen in 2020. UNICEF plans to provide individual learning materials to one million children, create education access to 820,000 students and ensure 134,000 teachers receive incentives to continue to teach.
  9. Yemeni authorities are taking action to ensure that children have safe access to education by agreeing to the Safe Schools Declaration. The declaration is an international commitment that 84 countries adopted to protect students, teachers and universities from armed conflicts. Yemen’s endorsement of the declaration’s guidelines commits to a future where “every boy and girl has the right to an education without fear of violence or attack.”
  10. The Too Young To Wed organization helps to provide daily breakfasts to 525 girl students to keep them enrolled in school in Sana’a, Yemen. The meals help students remain in classrooms and avoid early child marriages. Providing nutrition to students keeps them from falling further into poverty, and prevents them from becoming at risk of their families selling them into marriage. The price of one breakfast per student is $0.48.

Yemeni girls have many obstacles to attaining quality education. However, the ending of a drawn-out war and continued aid and support from organizations across the world is bettering the situation. These are small and steady steps, helping to ensure that the nation’s girls will lead lives full of learning and progression. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen shed light on the issue of Yemen’s education system.

Henry Schrandt
Photo: Flickr

young advocates

Today, some of the most innovative, forward-thinking change-makers happen to be under the age of 18. Keep reading to learn more about these three top young advocates who are doing their part to address global issues from poverty to gender equality and education.

3 Young Advocates Who are Changing the World

  1. Zuriel Oduwole
    Since the age of 10, Zuriel Oduwole has been using her voice to spread awareness about the importance of educating young girls in developing countries. Now 17 years old, Oduwole has made a difference in girls’ education and gender issues in Africa by meeting with and interviewing important political figures like presidents, prime ministers and first ladies. To date, Oduwole has spoken in 14 countries to address the importance of educating young girls in developing countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. “They need an education so they can have good jobs when they get older,” Oduwole said in a 2013 interview with Forbes. “Especially the girl child. I am really hoping that with the interviews I do with presidents, they would see that an African girl child like me is doing things that girls in their countries can do also.”
  2. Yash Gupta
    After breaking his glasses as a high school freshman, Yash Gupta realized how much seeing affects education. He did some research and found out that millions of children do not have access to prescription lenses that would help them to excel in their studies. Gupta then founded Sight Learning, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to children in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and India.

  3. Amika George
    At the age of 18, Amika George led a protest outside of former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s home to convince policymakers to end “period poverty.” Period poverty is the unavailability of feminine sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them. Girls who can’t afford these products are often left to use rags or wads of tissue, which not only raises health concerns but also keeps girls from their education. In order to combat this issue, George created a petition with the goal for schools to provide feminine products to girls who receive a free or reduced lunch. As of now, George has mobilized over 200,000 signatures and helped catapult the conversation of period poverty at the political level in the U.K.

These three world-changing children prove that age does not matter when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Somalia
The Somali Democratic Republic, commonly known as Somalia, is located in northeast Africa. It currently has a population of 14.3 million people. Of that population, many young Somalians have struggled to receive a proper education, even at the primary level. However, awareness and assistance are becoming more widespread. Many are helping Somalian children gain access to better educational opportunities to ensure a better quality of life. Listed below are eight facts about education in Somalia. By getting to know the current status of Somalian education and its origins, the country can make more progress to improve the educational climate for Somalian children.

8 Facts About Education in Somalia

  1. The educational system in Somalia consists of five phases: primary (grades one to four), middle (grades five to eight), secondary (grades nine to 12), technical (ages 15 to 18) and tertiary (higher education).
  2. A primary cause of the lack of educational resources in Somalia is due to the civil war that broke out in 1991. This directly impacted the educational system in the country, leaving many students displaced from the classroom. Further, many teachers are uncertified for their job, even over two decades later.
  3. Historically, Somali people have learned by word rather than written language. For many years, the Somali language had no script. Eventually, the adoption and acceptance of the Latin script occurred in Jan. 1972, following the recommendation.
  4. Compared to other countries, Somalia has one of the lowest enrollment rates of primary school students. Elementary school-aged children make up roughly 1.5 million of Somalia’s population. However, only 42 percent attend school.
  5. Funding for primary education efforts is in progress. On October 11, 2019, the United States Agency for International Development announced that $50 million will be going towards reforming and improving the Somalian education system. USAID will create a five-year program to “increase access to quality education and support accelerated learning for out-of-school children and youth who have been persistently left behind,” states the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia.
  6. Since Aug. 2019, as many as two million new textbooks have been printed in efforts toward the new Bar Ama Baro system (meaning Teach and Learn in Somalian). These new books cover topics that are relevant to Somalian life and culture, such as the English and Arabic languages, mathematics, Islamic studies and science.
  7. Somalia’s education funding from foreign powers does not only rely on the United States. Khaled Al-Jarallah of The Deputy Foreign Minister of Kuwait, located in western Asia, also recently announced that he will be holding a conference to help fund the new Somalian education system.
  8. Somalian teachers have responded positively to the implementation of the new system. Teacher, Abdulkadir Mohamed Sheikh, has praised the new curriculum for its ability to be centered around Somalian religion and culture.

These eight facts about education in Somalia show that U.S. international powers and the Somalian government are making substantial efforts for the current and future generations of Somalian children. Providing them with better education will assist in reducing the existing level of poverty in the country. Additionally, it will also allow the Somalian people to achieve and enjoy a higher quality of life.

– A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leaders in education within the European Union. With a national initiative to have accessible education to all of its citizens, the Swiss education system ranks number six on the Study E.U. education ranking of 2018. So what exactly is it that allows for such a praiseworthy education system? These eight facts about education in Switzerland show why the country is so successful in the education of its people.

8 Facts About Education in Switzerland

  1. Canton School Systems: Each canton – a Swiss state – has primary responsibility for how the schools in their area are run. Effectively each canton runs their own education system, though there is an overruling federal educational system: The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each canton can create its own structures such as school calendars and education plans. There is, however, an agreement among the cantons to keep a baseline level of continuity. This opens individuals up to the ability to shop the public schools that fit their own and their child’s needs.
  2. International Schools: Switzerland has a host of schools that cater to international families, operate bilingually or are privatized. This creates a smoother transition for English speaking individuals who can then benefit from education in Switzerland.
  3. Number of Schools: There are currently around 44 schools in Switzerland that specifically accommodate international students and are a part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). This schooling goes from primary up to secondary and offers both day and boarding options. Many of the schools follow the Swiss canton curriculum, but many also provide curriculums based on the individual’s home country.
  4. Homeschooling: Homeschooling is not a common practice within Switzerland; some cantons have even outlawed it. In August 2019, the Swiss supreme court rejected a mother’s appeal to the right to homeschool her child. It declared “the right to private life does not confer any right to private home education.” The court also stated that the cantons have the right to decide what forms of schooling they will allow and are in the best interest of the children that reside within their districts. Only 1,000 children receive homeschooling throughout all of Switzerland, a country with more than 8.5 million citizens. Many are against homeschooling in Switzerland because they believe it to be a deprivation to the child’s social education. They believe that a child can only achieve this through daily peer interactions. Further, many believe that homeschooling causes inequality within society because not every family can afford its costs.
  5. Compulsory Education: Education in Switzerland is compulsory for all who reside in the country, regardless of legal residency status. Though it varies by canton, most children have mandatory education for 9 to 11 years. Children begin schooling anywhere from ages 4 to 6 and must stay in school until about the age of 15. Education is typically more sympathetic to the individual in Switzerland. Switzerland has adopted the idea that every child learns differently and requires different support structures within school.
  6. Formal, Vocational and Apprenticeship Training: After their compulsory education, children have the option to continue on with formal education or begin vocational and apprenticeship training. Even though attending a university is comparably more affordable in Switzerland than in other countries, many students opt for vocational and apprenticeship education. Apprenticeships and vocational training can last anywhere from two to four years and can equate to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. This depends on the duration and weekly hours of involvement in the individual’s education.
  7. Specialized Education: Special education in Switzerland is a right. Specialized education professionals give individuals living with special needs free support until the age of 20. The cantons vary but typically offer special needs students access to both mainstream schools and special needs schools. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASIE) assesses children before entering the special education system. It does this in order to determine and advise parents on what may be best for their child. Switzerland joined the EASIE in 2000 in an attempt to better integrate its special needs citizens into mainstream society.
  8. Free Schooling: Schooling is free—kind of. Though compulsory education is free, it does equate to higher taxes for citizens. Further, schools often ask many parents to help with providing school utensils for the classrooms. Many argue that Switzerland’s excellent educational system is because of the country’s vast amount of wealth and higher tax rates. After all, in 2019, a global report listed Switzerland as the wealthiest country in the world, accounting for 2.3 percent of the world’s top 1 percent of global wealth.

Switzerland’s educational system is the ultimate goal for what education should be across the world. These eight facts about education in Switzerland show how the country is striving to create a more learned and prosperous future for its youth. Switzerland is a fantastic example of a country that has met the fourth goal on the global goals for sustainable development: quality education.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty
Sports are not an easy ticket out of poverty, but sports programs for impoverished youth can provide skills, support and guidance that can strengthen individuals and communities. Developing physical, social and emotional health are just a few of the benefits that children can reap from participation in quality sports programs. Below are five youth sports programs alleviating poverty worldwide.

Five Youth Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Tiempo de Juego: Tiempo de Juego in Colombia considers the game of soccer to be a tool capable of transforming communities, developing the skills of boys and girls and inspiring them to become agents of change. Tiempo de Juego takes an academic approach to the game of soccer, identifying three areas of development: technical skills, psychosocial development and a pedagogical foundation. Through the common bond of soccer, Tiempo de Juego allies with seven local schools as well as families to bring positive social opportunities to the lives of community members. It even supports small business endeavors of families who provide goods and services such as screen-printed t-shirts and vending for soccer events.
  2. Line Up, Live Up: Line Up, Live Up is a life skill curriculum with various sports from martial arts to volleyball. The Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative sprang from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declarative and is taking roots in Palestine and Central Asia. In addition to physical exercise and teamwork, Line Up, Live Up helps kids learn life skills for resisting social pressures of drug use and delinquency. It also helps students with issues such as anxiety and communication with peers. Line Up, Live Up forms its basis from empirical research from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and also the understanding that risk factors in the lives of youth can be reduced through meaningful intervention. The belief that actual changes in attitudes and behaviors can take place drives the organization.
  3. Love Fútbol:  Love Fútbol emerged in 2006 after Drew Chafetz founded it on the platform that community-driven energy toward social change could happen on a universal passion for soccer. An avid soccer player who traveled widely, Drew noticed the unsafe and unsupervised conditions in which impoverished kids often played. Drew developed the philosophy that every child has the right to play soccer and he built that dream into fruition in a collaborative way.The first program started in Guatemala before expanding to Brazil. Each place Love Fútbol goes, the community plays a vital role in building the field and creating the program, thereby instilling their ownership in the process. Partnering with global sponsors, Love Fútbol provides funding for raw materials. In Colombia, Love Fútbol partnered with Tiempo de Juego that had the experience and the vision of implementing soccer programs in its own community but lacked the budget. Love Fútbol was able to help make its dreams a reality. The whole community built the field with the help of over 100 volunteers and 1,500 hours of labor. In another location in Mexico, the organization constructed a soccer field on the former site of a factory, bringing revitalization to the community. With well-maintained fields and supervised programs, impoverished participants can build healthier and more productive lives. Love Fútbol programs are growing throughout Latin America and these sports programs are alleviating poverty successfully.
  4. Waves for Change: Waves for Change is a unique program on this list, as it does not involve a ball game. Waves for Change is a surfing program for youth that face poor infrastructure, violence and poverty in Capetown, South Africa. Tim Conibear founded it in 2009 because he recognized that surfing was a great way to reach at-risk youth who would not otherwise have access to such activities. Primarily a mental health foundation, the program addresses the psychological and emotional well-being of kids who often experience trauma. Waves for Change teams with mental health professionals to address the issues of child mental health. Program leaders note an improvement in self-care and participation in school for those who take part in the program. Kids who grow up in gang culture are looking for risk and surfing can fulfill that need in a positive way. The organization is able to employ over 40 coaches who are former participants in the program. The activity instills pride, personal responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
  5. Cricket Program: Daniel Juarez, an accomplished cricket player in Argentina, founded Cricket Program. He established this program for the youth living in the most dangerous and impoverished slums of Argentina. Caacupe Community Center offers the cricket program. Pope Francis, formerly cardinal to Buenos Aires, is a benefactor as well as Rev. Pepe Di Paola who people know for his anti-crime work in area slums. Through the sport, kids receive an education and learn values. Some participants have developed their skills to such a high level as to qualify for national-level youth cricket teams. The organizers believe cricket provides a foundation that participants can carry with them throughout life. It even received a Best Spirit Award from the International Cricket Council.

Children worldwide have a natural drive and passion to play sports and these five sports programs are alleviating poverty worldwide. Poverty can inhibit access to good equipment, safe fields and quality instruction, but through innovative programs that engage community members and provide structure and funding, kids can experience the joy of play as well as build valuable life skills. The confidence gained can nurture lives and empower families in their rise from poverty.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

El Salvador

The youth in El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent countries, face a lot of obstacles when it comes to getting an education. With the poverty rate at 31 percent and teen pregnancy on the rise, going to school and getting an education in El Salvador is not a simple feat. Avoiding gang violence, affording transportation and supplies, finding employment or valuable training after high school are all challenges that the youth in El Salvador face when it comes to receiving an education.

However, there are several companies and organizations aimed at improving the quality of education in El Salvador. These innovative companies develop programs and projects with the purpose of bettering the lives of the young. These programs help students with job training, English-language learning skills, sex education, brain education and education for students with disabilities.

IBREA and Brain Education

IBREA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, aimed at spreading knowledge about the relationship between the brain and body. Ilich Lee, the founder of IBREA believes that through holistic education like meditation, artistic expression and group work, people can achieve peace within themselves and eventually within their communities. IBREA has offered educational programs, seminars and carried out several projects in countries around the world including Liberia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone and El Salvador.

IBREA began working in El Salvador in 2011 and is currently present in one-fourth of the country’s schools. IBREA has made a notable impact on a school in the district of Distrito Italia. This district is one of many deeply affected by gang violence and poverty in El Salvador. Students, teachers and principals alike have said that since the beginning they have noticed significant improvements in their physical health, stress levels, and motivation in IBREA programs. Other improvements include better peer relations, clarity, decision-making and emotion regulation. The IBREA Foundation is continuing to make strides in El Salvador and Ilich Lee has even received the “Jose Simeon Cañas” award from the previous president of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén for the positive impact IBREA has had on schools in El Salvador.

FULSAMO and Vocational Training

FULSAMO is a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador aimed at improving the lives and creating opportunities for at-risk youth in El Salvador. Through various programs located in Community Centers throughout El Salvador, FULSAMO works to keep the youth of El Salvador away from gang violence by offering training programs that help them find employment. Currently, FULSAMO has four locations in Soyapango, a municipality in El Salvador.

FULSAMO is currently offering training sessions for work in call centers. The course is six months long, and students are offered help finding relevant employment upon its completion. Unemployment for the youth in El Salvador is nearly 12 percent, but only 7 percent for El Salvador’s general population. Since youth are more at risk for joining gangs, programs like FULSAMO are vital for the betterment of the community. Aside from training opportunities, FULSAMO also offers programs centered on arts, music and leadership.

“Comunidades Inclusivas” for Children with Disabilities

“Comunidades Inclusivas” is a project created by an Education Professor at the University of Maryland. The goal of this project is to make education in El Salvador more accessible to people with disabilities. Through small programs and networks, Comunidades Inclusivas works to have people with disabilities more socially involved in their communities so these connections can be used as a means to more access to education.

In developing nations, it is likely that children living in poverty, who can’t afford supplies such as uniforms, will drop out of school. For children with disabilities who may need more or different resources and supplies than students without disabilities, their likelihood of dropping out is increased. According to the Global Citizen, 90 percent of children living with disabilities are not in school, and 80 percent of people with disabilities, live in developing countries. The El Salvadorian government has made an effort to improve the lives of those living with disabilities and has had previous laws protecting their rights to public transportation and employment in place for decades. In 2018 the El Salvadorian government also passed an act that allowed the Basic Solidarity Pension Fund to apply to people with disabilities.

Through a partnership with International Partners, a nonprofit organization, Comunidades Inclusivas developed “Circulos de Amigos.” This is an initiative that connects people in a community who support and aid people with disabilities. Members of Circulos de Amigos support people with disabilities and their families by providing assistance during home visits, building ramps, and other specific needs. By improving the connection between people with disabilities and their community, Comunidades Inclusivas raises awareness and builds support systems for people with disabilities and their families. This ultimately makes education in El Salvador more of a possibility for people with disabilities.

Sex Education in Centro Escolar

Although teen pregnancy is prevalent in El Salvador, some educators aim to teach their students about sex education despite cultural stigmas. Females between 10 and 19 years old account for one-third of all pregnancies in El Salvador. In Panchimalco, a district south of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, educators are taking the risk of teaching sex education, but do it in a way that avoids scrutiny.

Because sex education in El Salvador is sometimes associated with contraceptives and abortion, certain teachers (whose real identities are hidden) in Panchimalco take a different approach when trying to inform students about sex education to avoid ridicule from people in the community. For example, the courses inform students about gender rights and gender equality. This is especially important since the homicide rate for females is 12 for every 100,000 people and over 60 percent of females over the age of 15 have experienced some form of abuse by a male. Sex education courses help students recognize sexual violence, report sexual violence, recognize their rights, and plan for the future.

Although sex education is just in its beginning stages, if it continues, the bravery from teachers will make a difference in student’s lives.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr